Boise woman survives being impaled 60 feet through fence
Warning: Material in this story may be uncomfortable for viewers
BOISE, Idaho (CBS 2News) - It was just a month ago when a single-vehicle crash on Emerald Street in Boise made headlines.
Police asked for any witnesses to come forward.
What perplexed officers wasn't only what happened, but how the victim survived the crash.
CBS 2News has now learned about the horrific details and the incredible actions of bystanders, first responders and the trauma team rushing to save a life.
The woman at the center of it all is also speaking out.
A group hug between the Slaughter family means so much more these days. Just a month ago, Nachele Slaughter had been through what none of us could ever imagine.
Nachele's 19 year-old daughter reached the emergency room in time to see her mother right before surgery.
"I saw her on the gurney with the pipe coming through her and blood in various places, and just kind of not Mom," Zoe Slaughter said. "It was definitely a little unexpected."
Nachele's husband of 22 years, William, felt his faith tested right away.
First responders told him don't go to the crash scene - go directly to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.
"You know, a fender bender, okay, I can deal with a fender bender," William said. "But something where there's you know, Nachele's life was in peril, is just incomprehensible, and I didn't know how to react."
The crash scene at Emerald Street in Boise was horrific and would take a team of trauma professionals to save her.
Nachele blacked out at the wheel, crossed the street and hit a fence - the force so strong, the top fence pole punctured her Chevy Trail Blazer's window, and then impaled her. Nachele's vehicle would travel 60 feet before coming to a stop - all the time, with her shoulder impaled.
"The first thing that struck me as unusal was the amount of pipe going through her shoulder," said Battalion Chief Andrea Cobbler, with Ada County Paramedics.
Chief Cobbler said the immediate concern was stabilizing Nachele's wound, keeping her calm and keeping her from bleeding to death.
"So where the pipe went through her shoulder, there are a lot of major structures there, so the potential for bleeding, the potential for airway complications from a pneumothorax- because it's considered a chest injury at that point - so you have all of those things that you're thinking, and as the fire department's getting ready to do the extrication, we're getting ready for anything bad that might happen to the paitent," Cobbler explained. "So we start IV's on her, get her airway stuff together, in case we have to intabate her - things like that."
Nachele was alert the entire time the Boise Fire Department cut the fence, and within a half-hour, she was taken to the Regional Trauma Center at Saint Alphonsus with a three-foot section still impaling her shoulder.
Trauma surgeon Dr. Britani Hill, M.D. was in charge.
"One of the most important principals about dealing with an impalement is if you have a stable patient with an object in them, you do not remove the object until you're in a controlled environment where you can take care of any problems," Dr. Hill said.
Nachele's x-rays show the fence pole narrowly missed Nachele's heart, but broke her collarbone, several ribs and partially collapsed her lung.
The hospital's trauma team helped the anesthesiologist induce Nachele upright.
"We couldn't keep her flat on her back like we normally would do on a backboard, so the EMT providers were holding cervical spine precautions when she came in," Dr. Hill said.
The hospital's engineering department's saws were borred to cut away the pole.
"First of all, we had to cover her in a shell because you get metal flecks and filings from sawing metal," Dr. Hill explained. "We also had to be aware of fire risk because saws get hot when you're cutting metal."
Minutes passed, but the pole came out smoothly - and Nachele did not bleed out.
In all, she had two surgeries and both were problem-free.
Nachele's wound today is a long, thin line - with healthy pink and white skin surrounding what was the puncture area.
It's hard to believe it's been just a month.
Nachele has vague memories of the crash.
"I remember reaching up and feeling something and I kind of had the thought, I need to get this out."
And she still finds the crash pictures hard to look at.
"I remember reaching up and feeling something and I kind of had the thought, I need to get this out," Nachele said. "I remember saying it hurts, make it stop, and then I was out again."
But she's thankful to be alive.
"Oh yeah, after hearing what happened and how close it came to ripping my heart out is what they told me, like an inch farther in and I would not be here, I would not be here with my kids, my husband - it's really scary and I'm thankful that I'm here," Nachele said.
William holds onto the three-foot section of fence that Nachele was taken to the hospital with.
He's still processing how his wife could survive being impaled for 60 feet.
"She's alive! That's the start!" William said. "That was my thing - whenever I saw her at the hospital, the ER... I said, you're alive and we'll build on it from there."
For Zoe, her mother is her biggest hero.
"Mom's pretty rad," she said. "She's definitely a main support system for me. I think I'm closest with her - we have a lot of the same personality types. Our birthdays are three days apart - she's just Mom!"
A feeling echoed by 10 year-old daughter Jordan.
"I'm just really proud of her - seeing her go through this - is just amazing," she said.
"It's gonna be a really long recovery is what I'm being told... But I'll do it, you know, I'll do it!"
Nachele still has a long recovery ahead of her.
"Ummm, it hurts a lot," she explained. "All the time, I basically live in this recliner. I can't sleep in my bed, can't lay down really - it's just not comfortable. The ribs are still healing, so I have trouble breathing a lot."
The biggest question is the future use of her left arm.
"It's gonna be a really long recovery is what I'm being told," she said. "But I'll do it, you know, I'll do it!"
The crash unfortunately took place at the most inopportune time for the Slaughter family.
"At this point, in our family financial, work, employment struggles, it was like the worst case scenario," William said. "Absolute unbelievable nightmare - like one of the things that you do not want to happen."
William is currently out of regular work and just before the crash, William and a partner had just started a new social media management business called Social Boise.
Their website is www.socialboise.com.
He'd like to get that up to full speed, but as you can imagine, he has bigger things on his mind.
The family is out of a car since the crash. They could really use a new set of wheels.
The family's apartment lease expires at the end of July and they're looking for a new place to live.
They also have mounting medical bills - so they could use financial help and have a GoFundMe page.
In the meantime, the prognosis for Nachele is good.
Dr. Hill said Nachele had a very minor bruise to the artery, which was treated with aspirin.
The doctor did not initially fix the broken clavicle for the high risk of infection, with plates or screws.
The big issue - Nachele injured her parachial plexis, which can affect sensation and movement in her left arm, down to her fingers.
Dr. Hill said that may take months to heal.